'Straight-A Student' Alcaraz Makes Historic Top 10 Breakthrough
“I’d like to be World No. 1, a Grand Slam champion, winner of Olympic medals... I dream big.”
In the time since Carlos Alcaraz first appeared on the ATP Tour in 2020, he has never been shy about his expectations. They are no different from what you might hear from many other players of his age aspiring to make a name for themselves on the Tour. The amazing thing about Alcaraz, though, is that aged 18 he already looks set to achieve them.
Although he still has a very long career ahead of him, the Spaniard has progressed at a frightening pace. One year ago, he was still outside the Top 100 and marked as a player with the potential to be one of the world’s best. Today, Alcaraz broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings at World No. 9.
"I've always been a normal guy. I'm not scared of fame, I'm not going to change the person I am," Alcaraz said. "I'm happy to know that at 18 years old I'm in the Top 10, and to do it [at] the same age as my idol Rafa is impressive."
The Spaniard accomplished the feat at 18 years, 11 months and 20 days, making him the ninth-youngest player to do so since the inception of the ATP Rankings in 1973. It is the first time someone of his age has done it since countryman Rafael Nadal aged 18 years, 10 months and 22 days. Coincidentally, or perhaps symbolically, the 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion also achieved the feat on 25 April following the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in 2005.
Youngest Top 10 Players
|Aaron Krickstein (USA)||13 August 1984||17 years, 11 days|
|Michael Chang (USA)||12 June 1989||17 years, 3 months|
|Boris Becker (GER)
||8 July 1985||17 years, 7 months|
|Mats Wilander (SWE)||12 July 1982||17 years, 10 months|
|Bjorn Borg (SWE)
||3 June 1974||17 years, 11 months|
|Andre Agassi (USA)
||6 June 1988||18 years, 1 month|
|Andrei Medvedev (UKR)||7 June 1993||18 years, 9 months|
|Rafael Nadal (ESP)
||25 April 2005||18 years, 10 months|
|Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)
||25 April 2022||18 years, 11 months|
"I don't have any limits. I want to keep playing at the level I'm at and I think that if I keep going like this I have a lot of options to keep going up," Alcaraz said. "I want to keep enjoying myself on the court, I don't want to touch the ceiling yet."
Cracking the Top 10 is not the only feat Alcaraz has achieved through his talent. On top of being one of the youngest players to earn a place in the Top 10, no other player has ever reached 50 tour-level victories with so few matches played. The Spaniard only required 70 tour-level clashes to reach the benchmark, bettering the 79 needed by Djokovic, 81 for Nadal and 97 for Roger Federer.
He also reached the mark three matches earlier than his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero (73), who occupied the pinnacle of the ATP Rankings for eight weeks. The former World No. 1, apart from polishing his understudy’s technique, also takes it upon himself to teach him about his journey in 2003.
“I have Juan Carlos, who is able to tell me how difficult it is and how much of a sacrifice it takes to reach No. 1. I think I’m on the right path. If I stay on it and continue to do things well, I will have chances, but that doesn’t guarantee anything,” Alcaraz said of the advantage of having an experienced coach.
While last season he reeled out several personal firsts such as his debut win in a Grand Slam, in an ATP Masters 1000 and against a Top 10 player, this season he is taking down some more significant milestones such as winning his maiden ATP 500 trophy in Rio de Janeiro – where he was the youngest to do so since the category was created in 2009 – and a Masters 1000 crown in Miami. Since his first title in Umag in 2021, his trophy cabinet has been filling up quickly.
Alcaraz’s progress as a player has been meteoric. The 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion has a fast serve that belies his years and he is solid both on his backhand and his powerful forehand. Essentially, he hits the ball extremely hard. He is capable of changing the tempo of a match, is very tactically intelligent and has in his hands the ability to produce any shot his vivid imagination can conjure up. Don't forget about his drop shots, either.
Despite the magnitude of his success, the people that work with him every day are not particularly surprised by his quick development. To go along with all the above-mentioned strengths, Alcaraz’s team has instilled in him a culture for working extremely hard that he has welcomed with open arms, allowing him to flourish in record time. He is respectful, humble, ambitious and a winner. All this is hidden behind a permanent smile. It is a cocktail of ingredients that all add up to create one of today’s best players.
Only time will tell if he is capable of achieving his dream. Meanwhile, he is now able to boast of having done something that very few of his age have done before him — being one of the ATP Tour’s straight-A students by becoming a member of the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings.